Some cities across the world might be considered to be more sustainable than others according to rankings provided by different reports.
In the guide below, we summarise some of these cities and rankings.
We also explain some of the sustainability factors that might be considered when assessing the sustainability of different cities.
Summary – Greenest & Most Sustainable Cities In The World
There’s Different Indicators For Assessing What Is ‘Green &/Or Sustainable’
Some of these indicators include but aren’t limited to energy use, water use, transport, waste management, general pollution, land use, building design, city planning, and more.
Cities That Rate As ‘Sustainable Or Green’ According To Some Lists
Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Northern European cities ranked as reasonably sustainable and green across various different measures and ‘top cities’ lists
What is considered to be a top ranking city depends on the metrics used – so, it’s important to look at what metrics and indicators were used to determine the top cities in any list that is compiled
Producer vs Consumer Cities
Something interesting to note is that cities generally fall into the category of a producer city, or a consumer city.
Some cities might look green and sustainable based on what is happening directly inside or close to the city, but, the indirect footprint of the city (i.e. what they import and export) also needs to be assessed to see if they are exporting and outsourcing some or majority their sustainability footprint
Sustainable vs Liveable Cities
It’s also worth noting that there’s a difference between a sustainable/green city, and a livable city – these are different measures, but sustainable cities may be part of what makes a city livable for some people
Greenest & Most Sustainable Cities In The World
One top 10 list of the greenest cities in the world, taking into account 9 different ‘green’ metrics:
1. Vienna, Austria
São Paulo, Brazil
Manchester, United Kingdom
10. Washington, D.C.
[The metrics taken into account were % of public green spaces, % of total energy needs from renewable energy, % of population that uses public transportation to go to work, PM10 concentration in the air, water consumption (litres per capita) per day, walkability, availability of city wide recycling programs, availability of city wide composting programs, and number of quality farmer’s markets]
– bestcities.org, and afar.com
The 10 top most sustainable cities in the world according to 11 sustainability metrics are:
… Northern European cities feature heavily in the top 100 cities, as well as Europe, Oceania, Brazil and in many coastal cities in the US. Asia and Africa have cities that rate poorly
– arcadis.com, and youmatter.world
youmatter.world goes into deeper detail about the sustainability metrics used, and what we can learn from sustainable cities
arcadis.com has different top cities lists, for people, planet, profit, and overall rankings
theculturetrip.com lists the top greenest cities in the world as Copenhagen, Vancouver, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Singapore, Portland, Reykjavik, Cape Town, Curitiba, and San Francisco
Telegraph.co.uk outlines Copenhagen as the world’s greenest city when taking into account green energy use, green transport, green waste management, sustainable building design, availability of green spaces like parks, eco friendly accomodation, availability of organic food and free range ingredients, commitment to being carbon neutral, commitment to sustainable resource management, and green requirements on businesses
Most & Least Polluted Cities In The World
In this guide, we look at the most and least polluted cities in the world according to air pollution, water pollution, general waste pollution, and other pollution measures.
Other guides relating to pollution are:
In this guide, we look at the cities specifically with the most water pollution and contamination
In this guide, we look at the cities specifically with the most outdoor air pollution
Cities With The Best Freshwater Supplies & Drinking Water Supplies
In this guide, we look at the cities with the best freshwater supplies and resources
In this guide, we look at the cities specifically experiencing the most water stress and scarcity
Top Emitting Cities In The World
In this guide, we look at the cities with the largest carbon footprints in the world
Cities That Use The Most Renewable Energy
In this guide, we look at the cities that use the most renewable energy as a % of their overall energy use.
Factors That Can Be Used To Rank A City’s Sustainability & How Green It Is
How much energy it uses, and the type of energy it uses i.e. how clean and renewable it is
– Water Use
Particularly whether there’s adequate water quantity to meet demand, and also the quality of the water for it’s end use (potable and non potable water uses)
– Waste Management
How effectively waste is disposed of and contained (as opposed to littered and polluted), level of recycling, composting and sustainable waste management, availability of bins and waste disposal around the city to citizens, and so on
How many vehicles there are vs what % of people walk or catch public transport, total miles travelled, amount of fuel burnt, the types of vehicles they are, and more
Read more about the types of sustainable transport, and the potential pros and cons of sustainability.
How energy efficient they are (especially in terms of heating and cooling, insulation, etc), how they use water, how they dispose of waste, and more
– Industrial & Commercial
Sustainable practices in each industrial and commercial sector, as well as proper management and treatment of waste
– Greenery & Vegetation
Greenery (trees, plants, parks and vegetation) can both produce oxygen, and absorb air contaminants and emissions
What the level of pollution inside the city is like, or how much pollution a city is responsible for
– Emissions Footprint
How sustainably a city manages their emissions footprint
– Consumption & Production Footprint
Adding up the footprint of the city when taking into account both consumption and production i.e. the sum of what is consumed and produced inside the city, but also what is produced outside the city to be consumed inside the city
Ways A City Can Be More Sustainable
In a separate guide, we list potential ways a city might be more sustainable.
Sustainability vs Liveability
Note that sustainability and green indicators are different to the livability of a city.
Being green and sustainable may be part of what makes a city livable, but, livability includes a range of other objective and subjective factors that sustainability and being green don’t.
afar.com and bestcities.org list more livability and overall ‘best city’ factors
Sustainability and green ratings are more focussed on resource depletion and environmental degradation.